The first time you watch Claudia Sorvillo perform one of her band's songs, it's something of a surprise.
The tunes are familiar, but the sound isn’t, whether it’s their jaunty, delighted take on Metallica’s Battery or a cosy, fireside version of Caught In A Mosh by Anthrax. Instead, the grizzly, testosterone-fuelled fury of the original recordings is replaced by something altogether more whimsical.
Driving Mrs Satan are from Naples, and are made up of Claudia, Giacomo Pedicini (guitar) and Ernesto Nobili (stand-up bass). Giacomo had grown up a heavy metal fan, and enlisted his friends to record the project back in 2012.
“When we started, they wanted someone who didn’t really know the songs”, says Claudia, “someone who could bring a fresh approach. Of course, some of the songs were well-known, but they would give me the lyrics then play the melody on the piano, and I would sing the lyrics. Afterwards, I would listen to the original version, which was sometimes quite shocking!”
Shocking? Well, yes, if you haven’t heard the original recordings of songs like South Of Heaven by Slayer or Helloween’s I Want Out.
But it works. When she sings, Claudia looks almost ecstatic, her bliss-filled expression at odds with the unconfined ferocity of the lyrics. “For some songs, I imagine a character, like an evil character in a cartoon”, says Claudia. “For example, in Caught In A Mosh I imagined a married couple fighting on a beach… but in most cases I’m just happy. I’m generally a happy person — that’s my style!”
The band’s treatment of some of metal’s most epic moments have been greeted with mixed feelings by fans. “If you read the comments on YouTube, you will find a lot of angry comments, says Claudia. “When we were broadcast on Nikki Sixx’s radio show, I received something like a hundred comments and e-mails. Many of them were angry: ‘What have you done? This is disgusting.’ If you love something, and someone comes along and makes it different, often you don’t appreciate it. But they’re not the majority.”
Live, it’s different again, as some audience members aren’t necessarily aware of what’s being performed. “Usually, I explain the project after three songs”, Claudia says. “I tell them they’ve been listening to Metallica or Iron Maiden, but I can usually recognise who’s following me, who knows the songs, and who doesn’t.
“We never introduce the songs before we play them, but I can see people gradually thinking, ‘I know this!’. I’m waiting for that moment of recognition. It’s like a game. Like we played in Portugal a couple of weeks ago, and one guy started singing the chorus of the song at the beginning, because he realised straight away which song we were playing.”
In the end, Driving Mrs Satan are helping to spread the gospel of heavy metal, whatever you might think of their approach. “Sometimes I’ll get e-mails from people saying ‘I’ve never listened to the original versions, but I like them!’”, says Claudia. “So I’m introducing people to Metallica. Even my mother is sharing Anthrax songs with her friends.”